Nutrition and gut health, mental health and diet

The importance of gut health and the right bacteria in the gut has become very obvious to me through my own experience in healing my body/mind. I have absolutely no doubt about how critical it is for general well-being to learn how to eat in such a way as to not only heal the gut, but to then maintain a healthy flora.

A healthy gut micro-biome is important in the healing of a lot of the chronic illnesses I talk about in the posts about autonomic nervous system dysfunctions. Somehow the gut and the autonomic nervous system both are greatly impacted in many different chronic illnesses. Supporting and healing one supports and heals the others in that profound way in which the systems of the body are all interconnected. Holistic health and well-being in action. We must tend to the whole body/mind/spirit.  See: Protracted psychiatric drug withdrawal syndrome, chronic illness, CFS, Fibromyalgia. Yeah, they all have things in common. 

More information in the media recently on the importance of our gut microbiome from the Atlantic:

probioticEnglish is rich with idioms that connect our bellies with our behavior. We get “butterflies in our stomachs” or just have a “gut feeling” about things. But increasingly, there’s scientific evidence that the bacteria in our guts might influence emotion and behavior.

Our gastrointestinal tracts teem with tens of thousands of species of bacteria. These germs are already known to help regulate the digestive process and to play a role in weight and food cravings. Some scientists are finding, though, that these same microbes can also alter our brain chemistry. Just how this happens is still being figured out, but one pathway might be the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain to the stomach. The bacteria stimulate the vagus nerve, and that, in turn, stimulates the production of various neurotransmitters—the brain chemicals that partly determine what we think and how we feel. (read more)

 All disease begins in the gut. – Hippocrates

What Hippocrates knew way back when is finding a resurgence today. There is a lot of talk of the importance of gut flora in the science media these days. Unfortunately the conclusions they come to generally involve excitement of new possibilities for pharma. In fact the above article ends with:

Probiotics are drugs,” Cryan said. “Drugs do stuff. If you have allergies and you take an antihistamine, it will do something, but if you take a statin, it won’t.” The next step, he notes, is “about designing precision probiotics so we know how they are on their own and collectively.

That probiotics are drugs is a ridiculous statement even if in some way true. They do, for example, indeed have a physiological effect when ingested. So they are potentially medicine in as much as good and whole food is medicine. Everything we ingest can be “drugs” in that regard. They do not however need to belong to the purview of big pharma. Probiotics are naturally occurring bacteria that belong in our guts and should already be there. It is our modern lifestyles that has made our guts go bad. Learning to recreate the microbiome need not be provided to us by big pharma. In fact many of us experimenting on our own now have healed our guts and ourselves with existing strains of probiotics. Learning more about all the millions of potential bacteria that might be helpful is of course a good idea.

So Pharma is not the answer even if they’ll do their damndest to “design” (and patent) naturally occurring bacteria so that they can make an obscene profit from what our bodies should be doing naturally. There are people who know how to go about systematically healing the gut right now with information that’s been available for a long time but not widely utilized. I have been learning how to do this for myself now for close to a decade as well. It’s a fascinating adventure to come to intimately know the workings of the body/mind.

Below I’m cutting and pasting my nutrition and mental health page from the navigation menu. Healing my gut has been one of the more foundational things I’ve done to come back to good health after the iatrogenic injury caused by psych drug use.

Nutrition and gut health

Gut / intestinal health is foundational to all health including mental well-being. It’s the first thing attended to when I chose to come off psychiatric drugs. In healing my gut I needed to alter my diet. I’ve collected articles below that speak to these changes I made. Below are many posts and comments that highlight my journey healing the drug withdrawal syndrome, but that also unearths much research about supporting the body and brain for good health so that others might not ever choose psychiatric drugs.

healthyPeople dismiss the importance of diet for mental health issues and they use the argument that if psycho-social programs like Soteria and Open Dialogue can heal those with “schizophrenia” it’s not very credible that diet has much to do with it. I find this argument rather lacking since, first of all, we don’t see a 100% recovery rate even in these programs. 15 to 20% remain unwell. What if diet were changed in these folks in addition to offering psycho-social supports? Also, being that we’re holistic beings, more than one thing can be causing dis-ease in our body/mind/spirit. We might find that attending to something psycho-socially gets us back on our feet and functioning, but we don’t feel REALLY good until we attend to diet and exercise etc.. It’s all important and it’s all interlinked.

This post has been created to collect links to posts on diet and how it impacts the body/mind.

Update: 1/2013 Wow, my latest discovery really shakes up everything I’ve been doing…though it’s all been part of the journey: histamine intolerance round-up — new discovery, likely to apply to others on psych meds and coming off them too and how this paleo girl went vegetarian (even vegan, for the time being!) **currently adding animal products as tolerated  (MOST RECENT

UPDATE HERE: Have you considered histamine intolerance associated with psych drug use and withdrawal?

These dietary discoveries are in keeping with various autoimmune disorder protocols. People are endlessly individual so no one size fits all unfortunately. People need to find their own optimal diets.

See also Foodie Friday posts: a collection of recipes and additional information about food, nutrition and diet

These posts date back 7 years to the beginning of this blog. My knowledge, experience and well-being has been in a constant state of evolution and change. Nothing here should be totally generalized to anyone else…

More recently I posted a wonderful video, with my commentary of a woman who cures herself with a similar diet:

Other most recent pieces:

Also related:

People who have taken psychiatric drugs often have gut issues. Sometimes these issues predate the psych drug use (as it did for me) and sometimes the psych drugs destabilize the gut and body in general and so the drugs are the cause of such issues. In either case it’s common that the use of psych drugs in time will further exacerbate the problem.

Because everything works together as we are truly holistic beings I was able to heal all sorts of issues I had prior to setting off on this journey…a few of them are listed below.

Diet and nutrition has corrected multiple problems for me. A short list of the things that come to mind immediately is:

  • Twenty years of severe irritable bowel syndrome. (I went to dozens of gastroenterologists before discovering my own wellness through my own research)
  • Psoriasis, a horrible skin condition, is virtually gone.
  • My knees which were suffereing from what seemed to be arthritis for several years are no longer painful.
  • My hair is much thicker and shinier than during my whole life. I had incredibly thin and sparse hair. It’s not luxurious even now, but the difference is amazing, striking and visible and palpable.
  • Vast improvement of my endometriosis which I’m still working on. (mostly endo pain free these days 2/2012) — actually I can now pretty say I’m cured

That list is taken from the post “Total health and well-being” which is basically just saying what I said above. We’re holistic beings and everything we do effects our whole being. So healthy gut is a somewhat central place to start and it seems to make sense to a lot of people as a large percentage of people have gut issues and an even larger percentage of people on psychiatric meds do.

For more posts more specifically on gut health see below:

The information provided here is by no means exhaustive. It’s a good idea to expand your research beyond what I share below as it mostly pertains to my own particular experience which sometimes includes others, but certainly there will be cases that differ from mine.

See also: (new)

Updated note: In our society today whether people eat animal products or not is a hot issue. I would prefer not to eat meat but have found I must. I’ve also found that I’m intolerant of dairy and eggs, so that leaves only meat and fish. I have found others like me in my community with similar physical ailments who have found that animal products are essential. I’ve experimented heavily with purely vegetarian methods of nourishing myself without meat since I deeply value the lives of animals and have failed. This choice does not come without pain. I’m always happy for those who find they can thrive without animal products and I certainly don’t begrudge those who can. I hope someday to regain enough health that I might be able to once again carefully tweak most if not all of the meat out of my diet. I write explicitly about this issue because we are all different and people need to find what works for both their body and their spirit together. Sometimes the needs of the body and the needs of the spirit seem to conflict. Such is life. Never simple. I take comfort in the fact that all of nature eats itself and I’m blessed with a consciousness that can recognize that I am part of this web of life, complicated and lovely as it is.

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About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters